The general term waterfowl is used to describe birds—including geese, swans, and ducks—living in freshwater habitats. All species share the characteristics of webbed feet and flattened bills. Waterfowl are commonly associated with lakes and ponds, but most species spend time on land foraging and nesting. Although all are migratory birds, many remain present year-round in ideal locations. Man-made environments like golf courses, office parks, artificial ponds and lakes, and municipal parks often provide waterfowl with irresistible grazing surfaces and an ideal habitat that can support them all year long.
The Canada goose is the species of waterfowl that often causes the most conflicts with humans. Canada geese are distinguishable by their large size, white cheek patch, and black bill, head and neck. They weigh about twelve pounds and have an average wing length of twenty inches. As a strongly monogamous species, geese pair at about three years of age, have strong family ties, and often vigorously defend nests and goslings. Canada geese can often be seen and heard flying overhead in a “V” formation, which allows each bird to fly in the wind draft of the bird in front of it, thereby saving energy and taking turns as the leader to break the wind.
Waterfowl primarily cause conflicts with humans when landscaped areas and maintained lawns are affected. When grazing, geese do not permanently disturb or physically damage turf. Conflict usually occurs from fecal deposits and the aggregation of numbers of birds (read about a solution to this problem). Tolerance, vegetation management (the use of tall grass or other naturally occurring vegetation to deter geese and ducks), fencing, harassment techniques (including the use of trained border collies), hazing, repellents, and oiling eggs are among the many solutions available in dealing with waterfowl. An integrated approach using a variety of these techniques is the best way to solve conflicts. Read more information on Geese management here.
Waterfowl are not a health threat to humans, however large accumulations of their droppings are becoming cause for concern in water quality control in municipal lakes and ponds. The botulism strain that affects waterfowl is not transmittable to humans.
MSPCA CANADA GEESE FACT SHEET pdf